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1930s

Influence and Establishment

The arrival of influential American jazz musicians was a massive boost for the London jazz scene. Louis Armstrong came in 1932, Duke Ellington in 1933, and others followed setting challenging standards for their British counterparts. These included saxophonists Coleman Hawkins and Benny Carter and, later, pianists Art Tatum and Thomas ‘Fats’ Waller. Another visitor was the brilliant Belgian guitarist Django Reinhardt who, with violinist Stéphane Grappelli, played in London in 1938 with their Quintette du Hot Club de France.

The BBC regularly broadcast live events from London hotels which helped introduce jazz to a national audience. London nightclubs like the ‘Bag o’ Nails’, ‘Nuthouse’ and ‘Nest’ provided outlets for jazz musicians to let off steam, away from their usual dance-band employment. By the late 1930s many British musicians, including trumpeter Nat Gonella and his band the ‘Georgians’, had built important solo reputations.

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